Landor expressed pleasure, without loss of words. Stone glanced at the Lawton woman. She was grinning mirthlessly at his discomfiture. "What have you been stuffing this fellow here with?" he asked her contemptuously. "See here," insisted Taylor; "turn round here and answer me." Cairness continued to stand with his head down, looking at the geraniums. The parson was wiser than his wife in that he knew when it was of no use to insist. "What's keeping you around here, anyway? You ought to have gotten out when you left the service—and you half meant to then. What is it?"
"Hire to him!" exclaimed Taylor, "what for?"
Just at the edge of the rock stream there was an abandoned cabin built of small stones. Whatever sort of roof it had had in the beginning was now gone altogether, and the cabin itself was tumbling down. Through the doorway where there was no door, there showed a blackened fireplace. Once when a party from the post had been taking the two days' drive to the railroad, they had stopped here, and had lunched in the cabin. Landor remembered it now, and glanced at the place where Felipa had reclined in the shade of the walls, upon the leather cushion of the ambulance seat. She very rarely could be moved to sing, though she had a sweet, plaintive voice of small volume; but this time she had raised her tin mug of beer and, looking up to the blue sky, had launched into the "Last Carouse," in a spirit of light mockery that fitted with it well, changing the words a little to the scene.[Pg 279]
Cairness did not answer at once. He pushed the tobacco down in his brier and sat looking into the bowl. "No," he said at last, "I'm not too vexed. The fact is, I have seen what you mean for a long time. But what[Pg 318] would you suggest by way of remedy, if I may ask?" They were both talking too low for their voices to reach Felipa through the open window of her bedroom.
"Let go your stirrup!" cried Cairness, in her ear; and as she kicked her foot loose, he leaned far from the saddle and threw his arm around her, swinging her up in front of him across the McLellan pommel, and driving the spurs into his horse's belly. It had the advantage of her horse in that it was an Indian animal, sure of foot as a burro, and much quicker. With one dash it was up the hillside, while the other rolled over and over, down into the torrent of the cloud burst.
"Oh!" said Taylor, and sat looking into the fire.
When the sergeant reported it to the major afterward, he said that the captain, in stooping over to raise the chief of scouts, had been struck full in the temple by a bullet, and had pitched forward with his arms stretched out. One private had been wounded. They carried the two men back to the little cabin of stones, and that was the casualty list. But the dash had failed.
"Then they all have 'medicine' on," Cairness continued, "redbird and woodpecker feathers, in buckskin bags, or quail heads, or prairie-dog claws. One fellow was making an ornament out of an adobe dollar. Every buck and boy in the band has a couple of cartridge belts and any quantity of ammunition, likewise new shirts and zarapes. They have fitted themselves out one way or another since Crawford got at them in January. I don't think there are any of them particularly anxious to come in."